Looking for ways to fund the state's upcoming presidential primary, the South Carolina Republican Party briefly negotiated selling "naming rights" to its upcoming 2012 contest to comedian Stephen Colbert.
State party officials ultimately rejected the idea of renaming its 2012 contest, 'The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary," but the South Carolina GOP still pursued adding a question proposed by Colbert to the state's 2012 primary ballot in exchange for a "sizable donation" from the Comedy Central host.
The proposed question asked whether voters in the state believe "corporations are people" or "only people are people."
The ballot measure could have been potentially embarrassing to Mitt Romney, who declared "corporations are people" in an Iowa visit last summer. But it was blocked by a Nov. 22 state Supreme Court decision that blocked referendums from the Jan. 21 primary ballot.
Still, the question showed up on a sample ballot released by the state Election Commission this week—prompting Republicans officials in the state to disclose their talks with Colbert and defend a question that appears to mock a leading Republican presidential hopeful.
"We weren't trying to embarrass Mitt Romney," Matt Moore, the party's executive director told Yahoo News. "It was a question proposed by Stephen Colbert, who was a potential donor to the party, and it didn't work out. It won't appear on the ballot."
But the almost-question has some top Republicans irked that state GOP officials entertained a move they believe could have diminished the state's "first in the South" Republican primary, which is already getting less attention than past elections.
"I'm honestly speechless," a top GOP lawmaker in the state, who declined to be named because he wasn't yet privy to the exact details of negotations, told Yahoo News. "What were they thinking?"
Colbert's question might still be put before voters. The Comedy Central host, who is a South Carolina native, said in a statement on his super PAC website that he is negotiating with South Carolina Democrats to include the measure on their presidential ballot
"Trust me, this was a measure of last resort," Colbert said.
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